Press NDP to Fight for a Workers’ Agenda in 2022

by Barry Weisleder

After nearly four years of the most regressive, incompetent and corrupt Ontario government in decades, opinion polls show the Doug Ford Conservatives leading, and the New Democratic Party mired in third place, well behind the Liberals, on the eve of the June 2 provincial election.

How is this possible?  Only exceptionally weak NDP policy and leadership can account for this disturbing situation.  It’s certainly not a function of popular satisfaction with the status quo.

Before the onset of the third wave of the pandemic, the economy was slowly emerging from depression.  Suddenly, millions of workers found themselves without emergency benefits, without employment insurance, and still without extended paid sick leave.  Giant corporations, including retail chains, big pharma, telecoms and banks, have reaped billions of dollars in profit over the past two years.  Not only do they pay minimal taxes — they derive huge subsidies from the government.  The priority of the bosses remains to build super-highways, not homes; fund pipelines, police and the military, not provide clean water on Indigenous lands; extend licenses for private profit-gouging Long Term Care firms rather than extend non-profit quality public health care to include seniors, medical drugs and mental health.

Inequality is rising, stoked by the flames of inflation.  Staggering increases in the cost of food, fuel and rent are a cause of stress that is taking a high toll, especially on young workers who see no future for themselves, or for the natural environment, under the capitalist system.

But there are signs of growing resistance.  Increasing strike activity indicates organized labour is emboldened at a time of staff shortages in some sectors.  In September there were 44 work stoppages, the most in one month since 2018.  Casino workers in Belleville negotiated a 13 per cent pay increase over 3 years.  Thousands of workers at a Cargill meat packing plant in Alberta threatened strike action and made gains.  Thousands of public sector workers went on strike in New Brunswick to blunt the attacks of the Higgs-Tory regime.  Congratulations to Canada Goose employees in Winnipeg who won union recognition.  Even non-union workers are doing better, posting increases of 9 per cent over the past two years, according to Statistics Canada.

The rank and file are restless.  That was evident in substantial support for the radical Workers’ Action Movement candidates for executive at recent conventions of the Ontario Federation of Labour in early November and at the Canadian Labour Congress in June 2021.

A strike wave is underway in the United States.  Teamsters for a Democratic Union won control of the giant North American Teamsters’ Union in a ground-breaking election.  Canadian economist David Card won the Nobel Prize in economics for showing that a rise in the minimum wage does NOT reduce employment.  In other words, ‘Dare to struggle, dare to win!’

But how daring, how bold has the NDP leadership been?

The federal election on September 20 was a saddening milepost along the wrong road.  While the NDP is a party based on working class institutions, with trade unions represented directly at NDP conventions, it is burdened by a right wing, pro-capitalist, undemocratic leadership.  More undemocratic than ever, the NDP brass increasingly hand-picks candidates without holding a local nomination meeting.  This is done often to exclude socialist contenders.  NDP officials spent most of the party’s federal campaign money on the Leader’s tour and TV ads, over half of an unprecedented treasure chest of $25 million. 

The federal Leader failed to draw the lessons of Canadian imperialist crimes in Afghanistan, Libya and Haiti.  He is loyal to NATO, silent on Venezuela, condones the Zionist Apartheid state, and seeks a more rabidly anti-China and anti-Russia policy.  Jagmeet Singh sparred with Justin Trudeau over housing prices, but offered no effective plan to spur housing supply.  Singh’s demand for a 1 per cent tax on the super-rich wouldn’t sustain national childcare, let alone generate mass social housing, free post-secondary education, or an all-service Medicare system, including free medical drugs.  He would cut subsidies to the oil industry, but not reduce the military budget.  He declined to denounce the British Columbia NDP John Horgan-led government for calling on the RCMP to arrest pipeline protesters on Wet’suwet’en territory.  Singh’s vain attempt to turn his personal ‘likeability’ into votes clearly didn’t work.  In any case, a popularity contest, such as the one Trudeau won seven years ago, provides no basis for meaningful change.  Sadly, the NDP leadership is dogmatically devoted to petty reform of a system in its death throes.  Socialists propose a program to mobilize working people and our natural allies in a series of mass struggles aimed at challenging the capitalist system and ultimately overthrowing the polluters, exploiters and oppressors, and their racist, sexist system in favour of a Workers’ Government.  A Workers’ Government could expropriate the great resources and productive apparatus now owned privately by a few wealthy families.

In Ontario NDP officials are obsessed with electoral preparation.  Leader Andrew Horwath has obsessed about the June 2022 provincial election since shortly after the June 2018 election.  Thug Ford’s cancellation of the modest minimum wage hike, his clash with teachers, the death of thousands of seniors in for-profit Long-Term Care, the incidence of cops killing Black and Indigenous people in Toronto, in Peel, and beyond, did not prompt Horwath to join, not even to urge mass action in the streets.  Her mantra was unswerving:  Defeat the Tories at the next election.  In other words, the best use of your time is to go to an NDP election training workshop.  Working class aspirations for change cannot prosper on such cynicism.  Socialist policies offer a constructive alternative.

In Ontario the housing crisis is severe.  Instead of limp proposals for ‘inclusionary zoning’ to set aside a mere 5 to 10 percent of new condo development in structures with over 100 units for “affordable housing”, the working class needs a government prepared to expropriate vacant units in large buildings and create a publicly-owned Housing Construction industry to assemble land and build rent-geared-to-income decent, accessible housing on a mass scale.

In Ontario, instead of passively watching police budgets bulge at the seams, the ONDP should demand the rapid de-funding of police forces by 50 per cent, transferring funds to necessary social services including, but not limited to housing, mental health, and addictions treatment; the disarming of police, beginning with the removal of all military hardware, gas, pepper and other sprays, and guns; and the permanent removal of all non-Indigenous police forces from Indigenous lands.

Instead of becoming less democratic, the party brass should stop interfering in local candidate selection; it should start adhering to adopted policy, and it should allocate at least 80 per cent of convention time to policy debate.

Fortunately, the Socialist Caucus is fighting for a Workers’ Agenda.  We won the federal convention to the demand for a $20/hour minimum wage.  We strive for greater victories at the Ontario NDP convention in February 2022.  Dare to struggle!  Dare to win!

Campaign Speech

Hello.  I am Barry Weisleder, chair of the Socialist Caucus, and a candidate for Ontario NDP Vice-President.  Here’s a question: 

After nearly four years of the most regressive, incompetent and corrupt Ontario government in decades, opinion polls show the Doug Ford Conservatives leading, and the NDP in third place, behind the Liberals.

How is this possible?  Is it because NDP policy is too radical and its leadership too bold?  Or satisfaction with the status quo?

Look at the housing crisis.  It’s severe.  Instead of limp proposals for ‘inclusionary zoning’ to set aside only up to 10 percent of new condo development for so-called “affordable housing” in structures with over 100 units, the working class needs a government prepared to expropriate vacant units in large buildings.  Needed is a publicly-owned Housing Construction industry to assemble land and build rent-geared-to-income, decent, accessible housing on a mass scale.

In Ontario, instead of passively watching police budgets bulge at the seams, the ONDP should join Black Lives Matter in demanding the rapid de-funding of police forces by 50 per cent, transferring funds to necessary social services.  Begin with the removal of military hardware, surveillance gear, and the withdrawal of non-Indigenous police forces from Indigenous lands.  The ONDP should denounce B.C. Premier Horgan for calling on the RCMP to arrest Wet’suwet’en pipeline protesters.  It should oppose the threat of war against Russia, demand Canada Out of NATO, and No New Fighter Jets.

Riding members should choose party candidates, welcome Eco-socialists and Palestine solidarity activists, not admirers of Nazi military figures.  The party should start adhering to adopted policy, and allocate much more convention time to policy debate.  The Socialist Caucus won the federal convention to the demand for a $20/hour minimum wage.  It’s only the beginning.  Elect Barry Weisleder for V.P.

Campaign Speech

Comrades and friends, my name is Julius Arscott. I have been a member of the NDP for 14 years.  Currently I am serving my second term as an Executive Board Member of OPSEU, which represents 180,000 public sector workers, and I am running for Ontario NDP Executive Member at Large as part of the Socialist Caucus team of candidates! 

The provincial election is in less than 5 months.  Most opinion polls put the NDP in third place, even behind the Liberals.  With the rise of the far right, who are organizing protest actions across the country today, tapping into the frustrations felt by many, we must admit that something is very wrong. Only exceptionally weak NDP policy and leadership can account for this disturbing situation, combined with nearly complete inaction by the union leadership.  

Inequality is rising, stoked by the flames of inflation.  Staggering increases in the cost of food, fuel and rent are a cause of stress that is taking a high toll, especially on young workers who see no future for themselves, or for the natural environment, under the capitalist system. 

I won’t mince words. 

The unwillingness of our party and labour leaders to engage and mobilize the working class to fight for gains thru mass action is paving the way for the far right.  Only Socialist policies offer a constructive alternative! 

Look at the housing crisis.  It’s severe.  Instead of limp proposals for ‘inclusionary zoning’ to set aside only up to 10 percent of new condo development for so-called “affordable housing”, the working class needs a government prepared to expropriate vacant units in large buildings.  By demanding housing for the house-less, and rallying low-income tenants and students, we can create the basis for a publicly-owned Housing Construction industry to assemble land and build rent-geared-to-income, decent, accessible housing on a mass scale.

The time to engage and build our movement is now! We need critical, anti-capitalist voices in the leadership of the NDP. The status quo should not go unchallenged!  I have a lot of experience challenging the status quo, after 2 terms elected to the executive board of OPSEU.  Ask anyone in my union, and they will confirm!  

Vote Socialist! Vote for Julius Arscott for Member at Large!

The Socialist Caucus backed 15 candidates for Ontario NDP Executive.  They received between 10 and 26.1 per cent of the votes cast for the positions they contested, February 4-6, 2022.